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Thursday, Oct 02nd

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Scientists find records of rare "earthquake lights"

earthquake lightsThey've been mistaken for UFOs or dismissed as hallucinations. Now geologists have collected a near-definitive list of a rare but fascinating phenomenon — earthquake lights.

Certain types of earthquakes in certain areas can set off blazes of light seconds — sometimes days — ahead of the actual quake. These can manifest themselves as floating balls of light, bluish columns shooting up out of the earth and even reverse lightning, reaching up into the sky from the ground.

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Life may have originated miles underground

Life may have started undergroundNew studies suggest the beginnings of life on this planet could have occurred deep underground, the Independent reports.

Researchers have found microbes up to 3.1 miles below the Earth's surface — tiny organisms that are almost exactly the same on opposite sides of the planet. That points to a possible common ancestor about 3.5 billion years ago, which is when earthly life began, the paper explains.

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Astronomers find strange planet orbiting where there shouldn't be one

new planet foundA team of astronomers led by a U.S. graduate student has discovered a planet that shouldn't be where it is, raising questions about how planetary systems form.

The giant planet orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-sun distance if the most distantly orbiting planet found to date around a single, sun-like star, a University of Arizona release said Thursday.

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400,000-year-old leg bone gives up oldest human DNA

oldest dna sampleThe discovery of DNA in a 400,000-year-old human thigh bone will open up a new frontier in the study of our ancestors.

That's the verdict cast by human evolution experts on an analysis in Nature journal of the oldest human genetic material ever sequenced.

The femur comes from the famed "Pit of Bones" site in Spain, which gave up the remains of at least 28 ancient people. But the results are perplexing, raising more questions than answers about our increasingly complex family tree.

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Researchers Discover the Hot New Technology: Throwing Javelins

species that taught us to use toolsiPhones, staplers, aluminum foil. Humans are surrounded and defined by their technologies. We might even say: Technology makes us human.

But that’s not quite true, because we know that other animals employ and deploy tools, too. Primates use twiggy Roto-Rooters to search for bugs. All sorts of creatures make homes for themselves; bowerbirds sculpt fantastical ones.

And now we know it’s not quite true either, historically. New archeological evidence indicates that our ancestors used a certain kind of tool—a “complex tool,” in the parlance of anthropologists—when they were still our ancestors.

That is: They threw spear-tipped javelins, to catch and kill animals.

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Scientists witness massive gamma-ray burst, don't understand it

gamma burstsAn exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole.

Last April, gamma rays from the blast struck detectors in gamma-ray observatories orbiting Earth, triggering a frenzy of space- and ground-based observations. Many of them fly in the face of explanations researchers have developed during the past 30 years for the processes driving the evolution of a burst from flash to fade out, according to four research papers appearing Friday in the journal Science.

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Trio of galaxies discovered 13 billion light years away

trio of galaxies discoveredResearchers have identified a trio of galaxies hidden in a cloud of dust nearly 13 billion light years from Earth, placing them close to the beginning of the universe.

The galaxies were first detected in 2009 but were assumed to be a giant ball of hot ionized gas. But after astronomers turned NASA's Hubble telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array to study the cosmic body were they able to ascertain what it exactly was.

"This exceedingly rare triple system, seen when the Universe was only 800 million years old, provides important insights into the earliest stages of galaxy formation during a period known as 'Cosmic Dawn,' when the Universe was first bathed in starlight," Richard Ellis, an astronomy professor at the California Institute of Technology.

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